BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court on Sunday sentenced a former banking official who amassed a real estate empire of at least 45 properties under multiple fake identities to three years in jail, state media reported.
Gong Ai’ai was a former vice president of a rural bank who came to be known as “Sister House” among the Chinese public and fueled public demands that officials declare their assets.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Gong was convicted Sunday of charges of forging, buying and selling state identification papers. Calls to the court, the Jingbian County People’s Court in northern Shaanxi province, rang unanswered.
The prosecution against Gong is one of several high-profile anti-graft cases since Xi Jinping became China’s leader last fall with calls for renewed efforts to fight corruption.
After the case surfaced earlier this year, people were shocked by the size of Gong’s alleged $160 million in real estate holdings — including 41 properties in the ultra-pricy housing market of Beijing — in a country where an average family struggles to afford one apartment.
They also were shocked that Gong was able to acquire multiple identities despite China’s tightly controlled regulations on identification documents.
Gong’s ability to get multiple identifications was central to the case, suggesting corruption among the police who register residences and issue identification cards, as well as highlighting the cozy trade of power for money.